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Previous article in this series: January 15, 2017, p. 173.

It has been the intent of this series of editorials to demonstrate the importance, yea, even the necessity, of having some institution to provide training that will equip men and women to teach in Protestant Reformed schools. This is not a novel idea. It has a pedigree, if you will. It can be traced to Herman Hoeksema.

Recall (from the first editorial in this series, Nov. 15, 2016) that in 1920 Rev. Hoeksema, minister in the Christian Reformed Church, was promoting membership in a society for a “normal school.” Rev. Hoeksema was the president of this society. In his editorial in The Young Calvinist he explained the importance of this school:

What is a normal school? It is an institution for the purpose of training young men and young women for the teaching profession. It is with a view to the teaching profession what a seminary is for the ministry. Now, we all agree that we must not expect competent ministers in our church without a good seminary. But just as little right we have to expect competent teachers in our Christian schools without a good normal school. We must have teachers that are theoretically well-informed, that are practically well trained and that are principally on a sound basis. Our entire Christian school depends upon such teachers. The teacher is the heart of the school. If we want to have Christian schools, we must have Christian teachers in the first place. And to get Christian teachers we must simply train them.

The normal school that Hoeksema was promoting did not survive. The main reason is that the CRC denominational school (established to train ministers) was expanding its offerings. It developed into a full teacher college and issued strong appeals to young men and women to obtain their teacher training in this school—what was to become Calvin College. It is also probable that the controversies over common grace left Rev. Hoeksema with little time or energy to promote the normal school from 1920 to his deposition by the CRC in 1925.

As he had done as minister in the CRC, Herman Hoeksema promoted Christian schools in the Protestant Reformed Churches. He strongly maintained that parents in the PRC ought to be sending their children to the existing Christian schools. He also promoted the cause of Protestant Reformed schools. The September 15, 1937 issue of the Standard Bearer promoted (editorially) “Our Own Christian High School.” In addition, Hoeksema was vitally interested in the education of teachers for these Protestant Reformed schools. We will examine that in a future editorial, D.V.

The history of teacher training in the CRC raises the question of what is the proper institution for educating teachers. The two main options were there in 1920. Herman Hoeksema was promoting a school to be supported and governed by a society. Calvin College was being touted as the better way, an institution maintained and governed by the Christian Reformed Church. Is one of these methods the (only) correct one? Or are both legitimate means?

It may surprise you to learn that the PRC have a history on this. I was alerted to this history by the discovery of a series of articles penned in the early 1950s by Homer C. Hoeksema. This history is significant for a couple reasons. First, the Protestant Reformed Churches faced the question of whether or not an institution for teacher training should be established by the churches—as an ecclesiastical endeavor. Second, this history demonstrates that the churches had much concern and interest in the cause of training teachers for the Protestant Reformed schools. The churches gave their endorsement of it.

Therefore, we will recount some of this history. H.C. Hoeksema did the research, and although I checked the PRCA Acts of Synod as well, I will be using much of HCH’s material in these editorials.1

The history, as recorded in the Acts of Synod, begins in 1948. In those Acts (p. 63), the following item appears in the report of the Theological School Committee:2

12. We received a letter from the Society for Protestant Reformed Education asking us to what extent the facilities of the Theological School can be made available to prepare persons interested in the teaching profession to qualify them for teaching in schools of our own. This society is planning to build a ten room grade school in a year or two. We informed them that at present we have no facilities and that we are forwarding their request to Synod. Their letter is herewith attached.

The letter mentioned was not published in the Acts. However, Synod did address this matter, for the report of the committee of pre-advice includes the following (p. 65):

11. In connection with the letter of the Society for Protestant Reformed Education, which the committee refers to Synod, we advise:

That Synod advise the Society for Protestant Reformed Education that we have no facilities for a complete normal course. However, that we can supply, we hope, the very necessary Protestant Reformed point of view by having prospective teachers take Reformed doctrine and read specified outside literature upon educational subjects, as produced by our men and others.

The same Acts records that Synod adopted that recommendation, only slightly revised, as stated in Article 80:

Motion made and supported to adopt the advice of Committee under No. 11 dealing with the request of the Society for Protestant Reformed Education for the institution of a Normal Course in our School.

Amendment is made, supported and carried that we change the term ‘Reformed Doctrine’ to ‘Principles of Education.’ The Amended motion is adopted. [Emphasis added.]

The 1949 Acts of Synod records more activity on teacher training. The Theological School Committee forwarded to the Synod the following letter (p. 64):

May 7, 1949

Theological School Committee Esteemed Brethren:

As you perhaps know, it is our intention, the Lord willing, to open our own school in September, 1950. We realize that our greatest need is for teachers, able and equipped, to teach our children the required subjects permeated by the Protestant Reformed life view. For these teachers to do this we feel that they should receive a specific course of instruction above and beyond that which they receive at Calvin College.

As you know, some work has been done along this line by our Teachers’ Club. The Board, however, deems it necessary that we should have a regular normal course where our prospective teachers would receive their final training. This we feel is very essential in order that our school may indeed reflect the truth as we know and love it.

This is not only of local importance, for we also have other Protestant Reformed Schools and plans are being made to open more.

We come, therefore, to your body with the request that, if at all feasible, a normal course be added to the curriculum of our Theological School this coming year. If for various reasons you do not see your way clear to do this, kindly forward this request to Synod with or without your recommendation.

Board of Society for Prot. Ref. Education

Sincerely yours,

(w.s.) D. Jonker, Sec’y, Per the Education Committee.

To the same Synod came an overture from the consistory of Randolph (WI) PRC, via Classis East3 (pp. 67, 68):

The Consistory of Randolph advises Classis to overture Synod to consider ways and means of establishing our own Normal Training School to train prospective teachers to teach in our own Christian Schools.

Grounds:

1. It is simply a fact, that shall our Protestant Reformed Schools be distinctive, that the teachers must be able to teach distinctively. The school is not better than the teacher.

2. It is a fact that the need of our own schools is being felt more and more, as is attested by our own School Society and the erection of buildings. It would be shortsightedness not to prepare our own teachers.

By order of the Consistory,

Geo. C. Lubbers,

Pres. W. Huizenga, Clerk.

How did the Synod of 1949 respond to these two requests? Article 37 of the Acts states that the committee of pre-advice recommended that Synod “accept these proposals in principle, and…place this matter before the faculty and the Theological School Committee for study and possible execution.” However, an amendment was made and supported to elide the statement, “to accept these proposals in principle and.” This amendment is carried, and the motion as amended was adopted. Accordingly, the matter of adding a course of study for a normal school in the Protestant Reformed Seminary, or a separate normal training school, was placed before the faculty and the TSC “for study and possible execution.”

It is interesting that the Synod of 1949 did not adopt the principle of the churches creating a normal school. Yet Synod allowed the faculty and TSC to begin following (executing) these requests, that is, to form a course for normal school instruction for teachers.

More on this history, with comments, next time.


1 HCH started the series on schools and teachers in the August 1, 1951 issue (vol. 27, #20). He began tracing this history in the June 1, 1952 issue (vol. 28, #17). The entire series is profitable reading.

2 The Theological School Committee (TSC) then and still today oversees the Protestant Reformed Seminary on behalf of Synod.

3 Before 1953, Randolph was part of Classis East. Classis East debated whether or not to study this overture before sending it on to Synod, but in the end sent it to Synod without recommendation.